Gates returns to his roots in win

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Yancy Gates stayed in the paint instead of floating to the perimeter as he did against Utah Valley and it sparked the Bearcats blowout of Georgia Southern.


By Will Frasure

Special to


CINCINNATI -- Against Utah Valley, Yancy Gates stood in stand-by mode throughout the contest as he fired up low-percentage jump shots, didn't fight for rebounds and lacked intensity in a dreary 92-72 win.


But after the night of fun, Gates went back to doing what he does best: enforcing his will over post defenders en route to high percentage layups.


The junior forward returned to his roots in a 12-point, 6-rebound performance in just 18 minutes. He fought for rebounds and threw his weight around in the post. Gates treated Georgia Southern like a Big East matchup, a welcome sign as conference play quickly approaches.


His focus was evident. As Gates blocked an early shot, he hustled down court and caught an unexpected pass from Cashmere Wright. With a wide-open court in front of him, the forward glided in for powerful slam, one of many on the night.


Gates attributed it to trying to find easier shots. Although he possesses a credible jump shot, he looked uncomfortable firing from near the 3-point arc Saturday night. After the misses of last game, Gates bodied up and earned his easy layups against the Eagles.


"I took a lot of tough shots and I missed a lot of them," Gates said. "Watching film lets you see what's going on and see what you missed. I saw what I did wrong and tried to get easier shots."


The intensity inside was contagious. Ibrahima Thomas tossed up unsuccessful jumpers early in the game, but buckled down after seeing Gates establish his presence inside on his way to 12 points.


Everyone else seemed to energetically react, too. Cashmere Wright looked like NBA star Chris Paul with his wrap-around passes and quick bouncers. Justin Jackson came alive offensively after mostly contributing on the defensive end all season.


The way the Bearcats played, the night played out like a dress rehearsal for the tougher games on the horizon. The intensity and focus caused Mick Cronin to offer high praise for his players.

"That's probably the best game we've played for 40 minutes," Cronin said. "Tonight we played offense and defense for 40 minutes and that's something we talked about in preparing for Saturday and as we move toward the Big East."


The tune-up was needed. Oklahoma may be down this season, but still offer a tougher test than the Utah Valleys and Savannah States the Bearcats have faced. Big East play also looms in the distance with Cincinnati taking on DePaul Dec. 28.


"The Big East play has been our focus since day one," Gates said. "We knew our schedule wasn't as strong, but we knew we had a lot of things to work on."


After letting up during Saturday's second half, Gates and his teammates kept the intensity going after coming back from the locker room. The forward proved his focus (and padded his own stats) by outworking the Eagles for two offensive rebounds on his own shots before finally banking one home.


"I just think, during second halves at the beginning of the year, we came out less aggressive," Wright said. "We just made it a point to come out hard every second half and not settle for jump shots and go to the basket."


While Gates had his fun against Utah Valley, his hard work translated into leisure. With the game out of the Eagles' reach, the forward and the other starters laughed and cheered as reserve guard Eddie Tyree was fouled while sinking the 99th point of the game and missed the free throw, leaving Cincinnati one point short of the century mark.


When asked how much fun the team's having in the last couple of wins, Gates and Wright both reacted with some quick laughs. Their tireless play early in the night earned them the right to kick back and relax while basking in the win.


"We're having a lot of fun right now," a smiling Gates said. "It's fun to win, especially the ways we've been doing it."

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